Perception

(In which I talk about menstruation and other unpleasant things)

I have this train of thought every time I see one of those articles about menstrual pain and how endometriosis and PCOS are vastly underdiagnosed.

On the one hand, measured by “dramatic things to do because of pain,” like faint, mine are trivial. I’ve never fainted or thrown up or even missed a day of work or school. Once I made it through a day of rehearsals and a concert, on the first day of my period, without medication (becuase I didn’t have a choice, but still, I did it.) I can get up and do stuff.

But sometimes my periods affect me mentally? And I’m not sure if that’s the pain affecting me mentally, or a separate symptom, or what. When my menstrual pain is particularly bad, even after I take medication and the pain is mostly relieved, I have difficulty focusing on things. I simultaneously feel desperate for something to do and completely uninterested in everything.

Or else I get so deeply into the flow of something that it’s like I blink and an hour has passed– and I normally never do that. There was one time in college where I was completely convinced that the clock in the classroom must be wrong, until I double-checked my notebook and confirmed that I had taken two pages of notes in that hour-and-a-half that had definitely just happened, despite my feeling that only a few minutes had passed since I sat down.

Usually, I have only a small amount of pain on the second day of my period, so I don’t take medication. But I am still noticeably more spaced-out than usual– even when I feel like I’m not in pain at all. And it feels like the same kind of unable-to-focus that I had thought was a reaction to being in pain, and that occurs with other kinds of severe pain, too.

Some autistic people have some degree of trouble identifying sensations like pain and hunger. I’ve read descriptions where an autistic person experiences some seemingly-inoccuous feeling, like an itch, or just an undefinable “weird” feeling, that turns out to be a serious injury or illness. So sometimes I wonder whether my “vaguely spaced-out and weird” might actually be “mild to moderate pain” by someone else’s standards. But there’s no way to know for sure.

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